As we reflect on the midterm elections, one thing is clear: in cities and states across the country, voters showed up for pro-worker climate action and delivered our elected leaders with a clear mandate to lead on climate action with good union jobs.
But the challenge ahead remains steep. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we do even more to drive a climate jobs agenda throughout the states. That means stepping up our organizing in cities and states to advance worker-centered climate policy, winning deeper climate commitments with labor standards, and implementing federal climate funding under the Inflation Reduction Act in a way that pays off for working families, under-resourced communities, and the planet.
As we gear up for the fights to come, it's worth recalling the early origins of the climate jobs model. Exactly 10 years ago, a broad cross-section of unions across New York came together in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to chart a pro-worker, pro-climate course for the city’s recovery. Across New York City, the storm had destroyed workers’ homes and wreaked havoc on their neighborhoods, particularly in the communities of color on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The initial insight that brought the unions of Climate Jobs NY, the very first climate jobs coalition, together in that post-Sandy moment—that rebuilding in a way that tackled the dual crises of climate chaos and inequality would require unions to lead the fight for good jobs and a worker-centered clean energy economy—remains just as salient today.
Today, we are up against the same issues: climate change has continued to intensify, hitting workers first and worst, and income and racial inequality have widened. But as labor has stepped up to lead on climate, we have also seen incredible progress.
This year alone:
the Maine labor movement won labor standards for renewable energy workers and landmark equity requirements for pre-apprenticeship programs that will train an inclusive and equitable climate workforce;
Climate Jobs Rhode Island won a trifecta of climate jobs laws: the nation’s strongest renewable electricity standard, a commitment to procure more wind power to meet it, and strong labor standards for the workers who will build the new clean energy infrastructure;
The Texas Climate Jobs Action Fund organized hundreds of union members around a pro-worker vision for offshore wind in the Gulf, mobilized union members and Austin residents to win strong labor standards for construction workers on school bond projects; and campaigned around a pro-worker and pro-climate “People’s Utility” platform for municipally-owned Austin Energy;
Climate Jobs NY released a city-specific climate jobs roadmap with researchers at the Labor Leading on Climate Initiative at Cornell University’s Worker Institute that would accelerate NYC’s climate response, create union jobs throughout the city, and advance racial equity.
Climate Jobs Illinois won $2 million to establish a Climate Jobs Institute at the University of Illinois that will conduct critical applied research and policy analysis as the state transitions to a carbon-free power sector and implements the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). The coalition also continued to organize around core CEJA provisions, campaigning for carbon-free and healthy schools and organizing a network of workforce development hubs to train an inclusive, equitable, and unionized climate workforce.
And of course, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, an historic climate jobs law that will ramp up clean energy production with good-paying union jobs, apprenticeship opportunities, and investments in under-resourced communities. As Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm put it at this year’s Climate Jobs Summit: From Ambition to Action: “we could not have gotten here without labor.” It’s no wonder that public approval of unions soared to a six-decade high this year. These wins show the real power we wield when labor leads on climate and are proof that unions are the key to building a clean energy economy that actually works for working people.
Once people see how clean energy can benefit their communities and lives—through expanded access to union careers, an increase in pay and benefits, lower energy bills, healthier workplaces and community infrastructure, or stronger job protections—there is no turning back the tide on pro-worker climate action. That’s why the Climate Jobs National Resource Center has ambitious plans for 2023-2024 that will help us meet the moment with even more ambitious pro-worker clean energy wins.
At the heart of our plans for next year are:
- Supporting unions in new states to organize coalitions, develop comprehensive and science-based climate jobs platforms in collaboration the Labor Leading on Climate Initiative at Cornell University’s Worker Institute, and build winning campaigns;
- Strategizing with state-based, union-led climate jobs coalitions to implement federal climate and clean energy funding in a way that benefits working people, their communities, and the planet;
- Scaling up multi-state campaigning around key clean energy sectors from offshore wind and solar jobs and carbon-free and healthy schools;
- and more!
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